Battle of the Fuels

Introduction: Battle of the Fuels

I did my science fair project on measuring the amount of energy of different fuels.
I tested Homemade Bio-diesel, B-20, E-85, Diesel #2 fuel and Gasoline.
This instructable is about my process of making Bio-diesel out of  used corn oil from the local Mexican restaurant.   
I have always had an interest in green energy and I wanted to know what fuels would be our best choice as we progress towards a more sustainable future. I had my friend who was a safety inspector for 15 years supervise the chemistry experiment. i did everything he was just making sure I did not burn myself on the NaOH or Methanol.

What I Learned:
Bio-diesel is made from vegetable oil, Naoh/KOH, and Methanol/Ethanol. The vegetable oil gets split into three chains called fatty acids by a catalyst (NaOH/KOH) then the methanol and the fatty acids combine.This reaction is caned a transesterification. You are left off with bio-diesel, and glycerin.    

I made bio-diesel in my back yard but I advise that if you do it inside you use a chemical/burn proof table under a ventilated hood. so like a nice stove.

To make Bio-diesel you need:
-Scale sensitive to one gram

-Litmus paper

-Glass blender at least one liter

-Safety gear (chemistry googles, heavy duty long sleve shirt, heavy duty pants, chemical resistant gloves, shoes, and apon)  

-Lye (NaOH/KOH)

-200 ml of methanol

-1 liter of used cooking oil

-Paper towels (you will use alot of them)


-Marker (Sharpie)

-Masking tape

-One 20 ml beaker

-Two 500 ml beakers

-Three 1500 ml beakers

-Petri dish

- 1 ml graduated eyedropper

-Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol)

-1 liter of distilled water


1) If you are using used vegetable oil filter one liter of oil with coffee filters

2) Measure out 1 gram of lye

3) Measure one liter of distilled water into a 1500 ml beaker

4) Pour the lye into the water

5) label the beaker lye + water DO NOT DRINK

6) Measure 10 ml of rubbing alcohol into the 20 ml beaker

7) Measure 1 ml of UFO into the rubbing alcohol

8) Label beaker oil alcohol

9) drop 1 ml of lye + water into the oil alcohol

10) Check the ph on the litmus paper

11) Repeat steps 8 and 9 until you have a ph of 8-9

12) Add the amount of times you dropped the lye/water into the oil/alcohol with 3.5 (y= x+3.5) This will be the amount of lye you use

13) Measure 200 ml of methanol and the amount of lye you calculated into the blender

14) Blend for 30-60 seconds

16) Carefully open the blender and pour 1 liter of UFO in

17) Put the top back on the blender and blend for 15 minuets

18) Let the mixture either sit in the blender or pour into a 1500 ml beaker. Let the mixture sit for 8-20 hours, in a dark, cool and dry place; Such as a cooler.

19) After at least 8 hours either pump or ladle out the top lighter layer this is bio-diesel, the bottom layer is glycerin

20) Clean up your mess, this is very important. Store the leftover lye, UFO and methanol in the cool dry place. Dry the glycerin and turn into soap, clean all gear. Do not use the blender or food again

Step 1: The Science Fair Project

I loved making bio-fuels and I wanted to do my science fair project on bio-diesel. so I made a test batch of Bio-diesel, and then bought a dollars worth of B-20 (a mix between 20% bio-diesel and 80% Diesel fuel #2) E-85 (a mix between 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) standard gasoline from the pump, Diesel fuel #2 from the pump, and vegetable oil from a local Mexican restaurant.

I burnt each fuel over a pint of water then measured the change in temperature and the length of each burn. I used this to measure the amount of energy that the different fuels contained.

Step 2: After the Project

I would not do anything different, I think that it went very well and I am proud that I can make my own fuel when I have enough money to buy a car. I liked doing this project, it was a ton of fun, however there were a couple challenges.
the filtering takes a lot of time so start that like 2 hours before you start. 
Also safety is very important, take all measures to keep the lye (KaOH) off of your skin, eyes,and anywhere that could be painful.
Methanol is very dangerous and flammable. DO NOT GET THIS IN YOUR EYES!!!

On the other hand you can eat the bio-diesel after all the lye and methanol has evaporated. I do not advise that however because if all of the lye and methanol does not evaporate you could die a very painful death.

So have fun making homemade bio-fuels!!!   

BTW I found out that the three fuels that run in a diesel engine (diesel fuel, Bio-diesel, and vegetable oil) contain the highest amount of energy.

UP! Contest

Participated in the
UP! Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge

      Pocket-Sized Speed Challenge
    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest
    • Maps Challenge

      Maps Challenge

    7 Discussions

    Dream Dragon
    Dream Dragon

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good work.

    I'm not seeing any indication of catalyst recovery or de-watering process. Probably not a problem for small scale testing, but it would be an issue if you wanted to fill your tank with the stuff.

    What was your testing procedure, did you use a Calorimeter type evaluation?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    If you where going to use the fuel in an engine than you would have to have a more complex evaporation process. Also the catalyst is removed when you separate the glycerin and the bio-diesel.
    Later on you can make soap out of the gylcerin.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Why do you publish same project again ? Do you want to be reported ?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, Bobblehead Einstein. But if anyone wants to win the contest, he or she will have to work, not publishing same project just to change the publish date.
    Maybe will be people under 18 years that will work hard to win this contest.